When you grow up in a small town’s trailer park, it never really leaves you. You will always know what it means to “make do.” You never forget the dreams your family deferred so they could work to put a stable enough roof over your head. You will always remember the feeling of yearning for something more.
And so it is with Nicole Suydam.
You might know her as the nonprofit whiz-kid who in 2012 took over as CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank. Under Suydam’s leadership, Second Harvest provided a record 25.1 million meals in 2017 and launched a goal of increasing the number of meals it provides to 30 million by 2021. In 2017 alone, she steered a network of some 200 community partners to distribute food to the most vulnerable populations of Orange County. And while she held the reins, Second Harvest earned Charity Navigator’s 4-star rating for the first time, the highest rating for fiscal responsibility and effectiveness.
Those efforts and more garnered her a ranking among The Orange County Register’s 100 Most Influential in 2017 and as one of the 2018 Women of the Year named by the Orange County Business Journal.
Now she’s poised to make an even wider impact, having taken over as CEO of the county’s largest charity, Goodwill of Orange County, in October. It’s a repeat appearance – she served as vice president of development there before going to Second Harvest. Or rather, before going back to Second Harvest – she worked there previously, too, meaning she’s returned to both agencies.
The zeal with which Suydam approaches nonprofit work has its roots in the central coast town of Santa Maria – in trailer space No. 31, to be exact – where her divorced mom, a high school graduate, worked hard to provide for her only child.
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